“In love we find out who we want to be, in war we find out who we are.” —Kristin Hanna, The Nightingale
The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves. —Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s been 3 months since I wrote the last post about hope. A quarter of a year and fourteen blogs later. I am shaking my head just writing that. And here I am, thinking again about hope, what it might look like, sound like, feel like, and act like.
Rhea and I recently shared a poignant moment, standing on her front porch after a few hours of focused work together. We must have both needed time to connect—to talk deeply, vulnerably. Gratefully, It was one of those archetypical, Southern, delayed “good-byes” as we both stalled and searched for words and images to explain what we were thinking, feeling, wondering, and fearing. In the end, it all boiled down to a deeper level of grief, which she wrote about last week, and my quasi, middle- of- the- night- wakeful obsession with hope.
There is hopelessness on people’s tongues. I keep hearing words and phrases repeated in conversations. One of them is “dread”. Another is “bleak”. “I don’t know” is a phrase I hear multiple times a day, usually accompanied by a head shake and eyes looking upward or sideways, searching. These are words and phrases that describe our fears and our lack of hope. When we dread something, we lack the confidence that it is going to turn out well. Bleakness describes a darkness, a sense of doom that accompanies us. When we don’t know, we are often confused, ungrounded, disoriented. Of course this is understandable. St. Augustine wrote that fear is cause by “the loss of what we love.” Where is the end of what we will lose? Please, where is the hope?
St. Augustine wrote that fear is cause by “the loss of what we love.”
I believe at this moment the palpable hopelessness is coming from a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, a disconnection from our nation’s history, and a lack of faith. And so, I have a few questions for you about these things.
- What to do when you are feeling helpless? Powerless?
- When all paths forward are blocked and you feel stymied, what do you do?
- When you want something and you can’t have it, what do you do?
- How do you act when you have tried and tried to come up with a solution, and none is appearing?
- In what do you put your faith?
What Should We Do?
There are possible actions, of course. Push back. Try harder. Go underground/be subversive. Ask forgiveness rather than permission. Round up some helpers. Take a measured break. Give up. Convince yourself it doesn’t matter. Descend into an addiction. We try so many things so as not to admit powerlessness or to feel helpless.
There are ways we are powerless right now, (and actually quite often but right now our helplessness is illuminated.) This virus has a mind of its own. It doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It doesn’t seem to care if it is hot or cold outside. So, in many ways, we are powerless over this virus. We keep fighting to get our old way back again. We open restaurants and bowling alleys. Beach parties and lake gatherings commence. Shopping and traveling feel good. We don’t wear our masks. The baseball/football season must start. We have to get the economy up and running again. I get it. There must be a way forward. We must find something that feels “normal” again. Can’t we just need to try harder to find a better solution? Right?
We try so many things so as not to admit powerlessness or to feel helpless.
But what if none of our solutions to our helplessness are good or right, because we are working from an old paradigm. What if, as Sonya Renee Taylor, a queer, black activist said so well, “We cannot go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
A New Paradigm of Hope
Pragmatically, I believe hope is going to lie in this new paradigm, and it is just being stitched together— discovered, designed, and built, depending on how you think about these things. We have brilliant, creative minds in our country, young and old in every category. We must allow them to lead the way, to show us possibilities in economics, science, technology, politics, quantum physics, biochemistry, virology, education, epidemiology, sociology, religion, the arts—every field you can imagine. As a nation and as individuals, we are being asked to stitch together a new paradigm. (This is not the first time in our nation’s history that we are working hard to put new paradigms in place. In fact, it is what we do as Americans!) But hope does decrease when we don’t know who we are and where we are going. This pandemic is giving us a golden opportunity to decide who we are—as a country, as communities, as humans. What new paradigm are you participating in?
As a nation and as individuals, we are being asked to stitch together a new paradigm. But hope does decrease when we don’t know who we are and where we are going.
Is The Heart Willing?
Spiritually, hope is an already existing state of being— a gifted energy that already exists. I think of hope as a river and I can choose to step in it. Hope is the gift that reminds us that we are promised and called to better things. Hope wants us to be aligned with higher purposes, for ourselves and for the world. And so our hope can get diluted and flimsy when it is misdirected toward having material things and pleasures.
Often I am reminded of the verse from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. “19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Where is your treasure? What have you put your hope in?
Hope wants us to be aligned with higher purposes, for ourselves and for the world.
In the meantime, we need new personal paradigms for hope as well. Can you start re-thinking your goals and/or bucket list for the second half of 2020? As an example, my trip to Italy is not going to happen, again. That is not something I can or should hope for right now. But how can I spend that time and money to better the world? My community? Myself? And what other goals may I want to set for myself this year?
I believe that you and I can be ministers/messengers of hope. I believe every time we practice gratitude we are messengers of hope. Why?
Because gratitude helps us look not at what we don’t have but at all the gifts that are present in the moment, gratitude always points us toward hope. And when we have grateful hearts, we are more capable of seeing what we have and what others need. With hope, we trust in the abundance that can make that happen. Attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, this saying moves me as someone who wants to be a messenger of hope. “Christ has no body on earth but yours. No hands or feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes that look Compassion on the world.” Oh, how this moves me forward in hope!
Gratitude always points us toward hope.
Friends, I implore you to embrace the hope that is given as a gift, and the hope that we as ministers/messengers take back into the world. The war against this virus is messy, the centuries old war for equality between races, gender, and sexual orientation is messy, too. AND, it is also giving us a marvelous opportunity to find out who we are again. Let’s stitch this new paradigm together—together.
Need a little bedtime story? I just LOVED this video called The Great Realisation. Treat yourself to a 4-minute, hope-filled message!
I have a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. A few years ago my book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. I am passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, writing, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com
You can email me at [email protected]